The First Day Of Honesty

The beast roared like a jet careening through fifty seven layers of plexiglass. Foul speckles of spam sprayed from a muzzle filled with razor-sharp syntaxes. It reared on two legs, it's body a collection of corrupt settings and conglomerated viruses. Two great ursine paws prepared to crush, prepared to rend, ready to delete.

The Monster of Yumland had at last met a worthy foe. A warrior unparalleled in all the internet stood steadfast against the creature's bellowing. She flexed her cape and muscles, causing them both to billow majestically in the storm. Great curved sword in hand and attired with kingly grin, she leaped toward the ferocious, salivating beast and...


<<Let's just say no one's seen hide nor hair of the Monster of Yumland since.>>

Torrent bowed to the cooing of the awestruck crowd. To them she was the coolest thing since frozen lollipops, several of which were being nibbled on by the audience. The praise and adoration were what she lived for, to tell the tales of glorious adventure, conquest, romance and to be recognised for her exploits.

Even if her admirers were below the age of five.

It still counted.


Torrent waved a heroic farewell as the gaggle of toddlers were taken out of the cafe's play area by their guardians, who proceeded to bundle them up with scarves and mittens to protect against the early winter cold. Seeing that there were no more little minds to entertain, Torrent collapsed onto her holographic table with a sigh.

<<If only it could be true,>> she wistfully muttered to herself, <<Just once i'd like to brag about something i've actually done. Something I can be really proud of. Something that isn't a lie.>>

Torrent held her head on a single palm, brooding about her rather pathetic track record with adventure. She winced at the memories of running from yellow helmets and nightmarish pickaxes. As she shook her head to derail the ghost-train of thought, her real-life counterpart approached.

"What's got you in sulk, Torry?" chirped an achingly happy voice.

Torrent immediately sprung to her feet with a speed that would make a cheetah feel jealous enough to write in it's diary about.

<<H-ha! Ha-ha! Me? Sulking? Perish the assumption! I was merely... p-practicing my thinking pose!>>

The look Torrent got from her operator showed the fib hadn't flow. It was a rare occasion when she could get one past Hippie the Happy Goth. Attired in her usual mishmash of colour and style, she had her multi-faceted hair imprisoned within a hairnet and sported a frilly red and green apron that clashed horribly with her dark clothes, the trappings of a Cafe Castel employee. As her self-implied nickname attested, Hippie's face switched from disbelieving frown to wild smile faster than the zag of a thunderbolt.

"I've got something that might cheer you up!" she declared, thrusting a flyer at Torrent's miniature holographic projection. She stepped back to look at the offending article, reading the heading out loud.

<<'Obligatory Christmas Giveaway Electric Boogaloo'?>>

Hippie held the flyer tight in both hands, a look of gigglish glee plastered on her face.

"You send in a chip you don't want and get something else instead! Isn't that exciting? It's like the most wonderful trade of all time! We should totally do it!"

Hippie gasped, raising a hand to her mouth as a sudden thought struck her with the same impact as a rabid hedgehog.

"We could get a super-fabulous-amazing-ultra-mega-strong battlechip! That would make it heaps easier to travel through the internet!"

Torrent couldn't quite see why this was such a big deal. She turned her back to the starry-eyed girl and haughtily smirked.

<<As if i'd need a super chip to help me!>> She boasted, <<Why I could run through the Undernet with both hands removed, my legs crippled and no battlechips! ...Blindfolded!>>

A large, hunched figure approached the duo, it's bulk blocking the light of the overhead fluorescent lamps. Hippie and Torrent turned and looked up at a large, round face so completely overthrown by facial hair that even the eyebrows had throw in the towel and become one with the fuzz. A couple of stars peered out of the dark forest, gazing at the pair. A huge apron hung off the form like a powder-stained cloak and the grand toque atop the head was worn as regally as a crown.

This was Mr Rito, the one known as the Cafe King. He had shown up in ACDC a few years back and set up a family-oriented cafe which became quite popular with those who visited the nearby park. From croissants to coffee, Cafe Castel also provided a delivery and pick-up service for customers on the go.

"Hey, Hippie.", rumbled the beard. The speech was deep but was as free of menace as a wall.

"There's something blocking the internet. Can't get orders if there's no internet. Think you could fix it?"

"Sure thing, your majesty!" Hippie chirped with a mock salute, "But why me?"

"Melvin's on delivery." The King stated flatly and slouched back behind the counter with the solid grace of an iceberg.

Hippie waved at her employer's back, slowly turning to greet Torrent with a manic grin.

A simulated shiver rippled down Torrent's piping.

"Hey. Torrent." Hippie said with deliberate inevitability, like someone having the greatest idea of all time.

"I'm having the greatest idea of all time!"

<<A-as long as it involves s-staying out of the i-i-interne->>

"If we go sort out what's blocking the internet, we should be able to find a chip that we can give to the wonder trade!"

Torrent paled. If she went into the internet she'd have to face the horrible, horrible yellow helmets and killer pickaxes and who else knows.

<<N-n-no need for that!>>, she blurted, failing to prevent nervous jitters from shaking her body, <<We c-c-could j-just send o-one of the chips th-that we already ha-!>>

"Let's do it, Torrent!", declared Hippie, reaching for her PET and connecting to one of the many ports that the establishment provided. "Jack in!"

<<L-l-l-l-l-l-look, see, i-i-i've got one right heeeeeeeere...>>

---Two Week Timeskip After The First Folly---

It had been a couple of weeks since Hippie and Torrent had delved into a virus-infested cave to stop a madman from disrupting the cafe's customer service. Hippie hummed happily to herself as she scrubbed a stubborn patch of caramel from a tray in the kitchen sink. The work was simple, but the cafe always had work to do, being that she was only one of two employees. She was the one to set up the chairs, wipe the tables, check the register, bake the first batch of that day's breakfast muffins (caramel and cream), take orders, man the till, clean up spills...

Actually, come to think of it, what did her co-worker actually do? He hadn't been in all day. Hippie grinned to herself, shrugging her idle thoughts and wiping sweat from her forehead, which merely added a froth of bubbles to her already peculiar appearance.

Suddenly her PET jingled with an overly-sweet earworm from her apron pocket. Drying her hands and checking the device, she was delighted to find a reply to her earlier message on the public Mission BBS.

Hippie glanced around the kitchen door. Torrent was busy interfacing with the cafe's auto-waiter, wiping down tables and collecting plates. From her holographic vantage on the top of the robot, she was staring out of the window with a longing look. Hippie could only guess as to what was on her friend's mind, but she was pretty sure she knew. A playful smirk danced onto her face as she pirouetted across the distance between them in the space of a second.


The joyful shriek caught Torrent by surprise, the auto-waiter flinging its cargo of crockery into the air. In a dazzling display of acrobatics, Hippie reached out and caught every single piece of dishware as it fell, stacking them masterfully on her outstretched arms.

<<J-jeezy peeps, Hippie!>> Torrent fought to steady the machine, <<If my heart wasn't artificial->>

"I've got a special present for you!" Hippie interrupted, her patience as real as flying sauerkraut.

After finally getting the robot under control, Torrent looked up at her operator with what Hippie surmised was trepidation. "What... sort of surprise?"

Having stowed her PET to catch the dishes, Hippie carefully bent over to grab it from her apron pocket with her teeth. "'Ook! I'sh ah 'eshul 'eshcue 'ishun'! 'Usht ur oo!"

Torrent studied the PET's screen, dangling from Hippie's teeth by the strap. <<Come again?>>

Hippie remained where she stood, bowed over with the weight of carefully balanced plates and utensils, waiting for Torrent to finish reading the post.

<<Wait... Pirates? Kidnapping? Rescue?>> Torrent looked up at Hippie's beaming face. <<You... got me an opportunity to save the day?>>

"Isn't it great?" Hippie spat out the PET, bouncing it neatly back into her pocket. "You get to be a hero again!"

Torrent looked a tad pensive, so Hippie elaborated with a more tender approach. "I've seen you looking off in the distance like you're wondering how to get to the moon. Ever since we went busting, you've been looking... bored. Needy. I can tell you want to get out there and show everyone the strong, amazing net-battler I know you are!"

Torrent's cheeks hummed with a tiny blush. The navi looked down at her holographic feet, pondering. Hippie waited patiently, hoping the present wasn't going to upset her best friend.

Finally Torrent shook her head, looking up at Hippie with a grateful grin.

<<Well? What are we waiting for? We've got a distressed kidnapee to save!>> Hippie vibrated in glee, ecstatic to see Torrent with her fists on her hips, chest puffed out and looking to become a great story. A flash of green, and she was out of the auto-waiter and back into the PET.

"Awesome! But first, we need to go to this place I heard about where we can get you all sorts of cool new battling things! It'll be just what we need to get you ready for your debut!" Hippie headed for the door, eager to get started on their shopping trip. But this time, they'd be buying super-sweet net-battling powers instead of toys and party poppers.

<<Alright, cool. But, uh, Hippie?>>

Hippie halted just before the doorway. "What's up?"

<<Maybe you should put all those dishes away first.>>

"Oh, right."

<<And... Hippie?>>


<<Sorry for the wait!>> Torrent called out through the speakers of the Auto-Waiter she was piloting. The machine was basically a T.V. screen with arms, suspended from ceiling tracks. <<Here's your muffin and coffee, ma'am.>>

"Cheers." The customer, one of Cafe Castel's regulars, lifted up her PET and showed Torrent the view screen. It was playing Hippie's recording of Torrent and her... 'butt battle'... with the pirate captain Jolly. "Nice dancing, by the way."

Torrent smiled a little too brightly. <<Thank you.>>, then turned away, hiding her display screen. She zoomed a smidge over the machine's recommended speed limit to the window separating the kitchen from the cafe. This was the fourth time today people had shown her that video. It had put a bit of a damper on her unquestionably successful rescue operation, which she had rightfully been bragging about to anyone in earshot. She was a hero! Torrent, rescuing an innocent doctor from the hands of deadly, fashion-conscious pirates! It was one of the single greatest things she had done in her whole runtime.

And then people would say 'Yeah, I have you shaking your rear on video.'

"O-order up for... for table five..." Hippie, her dark dress covered by a sugar-splotched apron, sheepishly passed a tray of freshly baked goodies through the window into Torrent's mechanical arms. "If that's okay..." Hippie kept her eyes low and returned to the stove, limply mixing batter and flipping pancakes with very little flourish.

Torrent had gotten on her case about uploading the video, and Hippie had been horrified. Hippie probably hadn't considered that she could upset her friend in that way. Torrent was still grumpy about the whole thing, but seeing Hippie shriveled up like an old shrimpy irritated her to a similar degree. Irritated her enough to forgive the gloomy girl just to stop her from moping around.

The cafe's other Auto-Waiter, currently navi-less and run by Progs, careened down the same ceiling track that she was moving along. Lost in her musings,Torrent barely had time to register it coming before the two robots smashed together. Torrent flailed, losing her grip on the tray and spilling bagels everywhere. The wayward robot pushed her forward, grinding along the rails. Torrent struggled with the machine's controls, unable to push back. With quick maneuvering, Torrent switched tracks at a junction, the faulty robot racing past her and crashing into the wall.

The cafe's customers decided now would be an appropriate time to take their food to the outside seating.

The deranged Auto-Waiter spun on its support, stopped abruptly, than thundered back along the track towards her. Torrent reversed clumsily, raising her mechanical arms to block the robot's wild flailing. <<Hippie! Help!>>

"I've got it!" Hippie dove through the kitchen window, vaulted off a chair onto a table and springboarded through the cafe to grab the offending machine. She clung to its back and began pulling at loose wires. The robot responded by trying to spin her off, but Torrent instead took action and clung to the robot with her own machine to keep it in place. It bucked and wobbled, its suspension rod groaning with the added weight of an angry goth.

Mr Rito strode towards the commotion with the speed and severity of a snow plow. The Cafe King grabbed the rambunctious robot by its suspension rod and abruptly yanked the whole thing out of the ceiling. No longer connected to the power line, the robot darkened and fell slack and lifeless.

Hippie grinned at him bashfully, still clinging to the robot in Mr Rito's grasp. "I didn't start it this time."

Mr Rito stared thoughtfully into the dark screen of the robot. "It's buggy." He glanced once each at Hippie and Torrent. "Bonus pay if you can clean it out."

Hippie and Torrent shared a shocked expression. "Us?" Hippie blurted.

Mr Rito nodded. Hippie retrieved Torrent from the not-deranged Auto-Waiter and followed her boss into the building's office slash workshop. Mr Rito bound the robot's arms in industrial-strength tape and reconnected the power to it. Curiously, the faulty Auto-Waiter didn't struggle against its bonds. With only a nod, Mr Rito left to tend to the customers, who were now enjoying the post-lunch sun.

"Are you okay with doing this?" Hippie asked pensively.

That pang of annoyance struck Torrent again but it was a reasonable question. She was just getting a bit wound up, that's all. <<Who do you think you're talking to? I've fought pirates!>>

Hippie brightened up at that, some swelling of emotion that coloured her pale makeup. "Well, you never actually fought any." She cut off Torrent's rebuttal by jacking her into the Auto-Waiter.

As the beam transferred her friend, Hippie noticed a small label slapped onto the side of the machine. 'Developed with Sci-Lab Technology.'

((TO Waiter! There's a Virus in my Battle!))